I was 11 years old when my mother passed away after battling cancer for nearly 6 years. I learned a lifetime of lessons from my mother’s shortened life. She was the most talented person I’ve ever met. My house was filled with books on crafts and beads and art and gardening and ancient civilizations. My mother would immerse herself in everything she was interested in. She would make cakes like a pro, sew all my Halloween costumes, sell jewelry and pottery that she hand crafted… She did all of this while co-parenting 2 children, working a full time job, and going to chemotherapy. I’m not really sure how she did it. But, what sticks with me most, is that when she was in the hospital for the last time, she stopped her doctor before he left the room and said, “Doctor, I don’t want to die. I love my life”. She said this despite the hardships that she faced in her life, of which there were many.
Shortly after my mother passed, I fell into a deep depression. I suffered from distorted body image issues and disordered eating patterns. I felt emotionally neglected by my father, and misunderstood by my friends. I was drinking too much and too often and getting myself into potentially dangerous situations. I was convinced that my circumstances defined me. I hated myself. I stood firm in my belief that my identity was rooted in my self loathing, my sadness, and my loneliness. At that time, I honestly believed, that I didn’t deserve to feel any other way.
The course of my life changed when I realized that I wanted to help other people. It dawned on me that I would have to heal if I truly wanted to help others heal. Even though I had this realization at a young age, it took almost ten years before I was able to declare that I was happy, healthy, and well on my way to fulfilling my dreams of making a lasting impact on peoples’ lives. Believe me when I tell you that It was an uphill battle. Yet, several loving romantic relationships, one restorative spiritual journey to India, a soul igniting trip to Burning Man, a lot of yoga, countless self help books, a high level success coach, an amazing tribe of women, and two psychology degrees later… Here I am.
I do not have a perfect life. I still have depressive periods. I still have moments when I criticize myself or my appearance. Old insecurities come creeping in every now and again. However, I now have the tools to ward off negative feelings quickly because I know that I have control over how I feel. So, if nothing else, I want to share some lessons that I’ve learned, that allow me to live happily and healthily:
Dig deep, and find what you love to do. If you have a burning desire in your heart, or a dream that wont go away, it’s because it was meant for you. Go after your dreams fiercely, with compassion, patience, and persistence. Create meaning in your life. Be vulnerable. Be forgiving to yourself and others. Eat the damn cake. Work out three times a week. Moisturize. Rest. Love openly. Be vulnerable. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Trust your intuition. Know that where you are is not who you are. Your circumstances do not define you. I will repeat, your circumstances do not define you. Make friends with people who support and encourage you. Make friends with people from faraway places. Make friends with people who challenge your sensibilities. Ignore the people who bring you down. Protect your energy. Breakup with friends or romantic partners if they make you feel less than. Say no when you want to say no. Say yes when something excites you, even and especially, if it scares you. Travel. Travel around your neighborhood, your city, the country, other countries. Just go out and see new things with curious eyes. Talk to strangers. Tell people when you find them attractive. Allow people to compliment you. Accept compliments. Make eye contact. Know that it is okay to feel very, very, good about yourself. And most importantly, know that no one owes you anything, but that you deserve everything. Know that you have the power to create an amazing life and that it’s entirely up to you.
I want you to know that you have all the tools to live a beautiful and fulfilling life, no matter how sad, or lonely, or frustrated, or scared you are. Just start doing the work. Take baby steps, take leaps, take risks. Run or walk in the direction of your dreams, hopes and desires. Just start moving. It doesn’t matter if it takes ten days or ten years. There are no deadlines for your dreams. If I can end up where I am, physically and mentally, then you can too. You deserve to look back at your life and say, “I love my life”. The wildly empowering and amazing part, is that it’s entirely up to you.
Natalie is following her dreams and now runs a coaching business to help women find their voice and confidence to go after their dreams.